Friday, May 11, 2012

The Dumb Tongue

19 Iyyar, 5772
May 11th, 2012
34th Day of the Omer

My grandfather, of blessed memory, was a man of few words but remarkably strong convictions. Now one must understand: I basically talk to people for a living; I was an English major; words are my bread and butter. One might think the disparity drove a wedge between us.

But my grandfather never had trouble making himself understood. I knew his principles with clarity and felt the boundlessness of his love. Without saying much, he was the most righteous and kind man I have ever known.

Watching him taught me a lesson that is one of my treasured possessions: words are a means, not an end. The ability to produce great words amounts to nothing of itself.

There is a rampant misconception that, in the sphere of public debate, the person with the best words wins. Remember that the victor should be the one who has the best ideas, not the glibbest tongue.

What I know is that the strongest of our convictions, the best of our ideas, our most deeply held values are extremely difficult to articulate. People like me spend a lifetime just learning to give them voice.

However, because one cannot articulate them well does not mean that such convictions are invalid. Prettier words should not take away what you believe.

The inverse is true as well. Just because someone has an elegant way to express dishonorable feelings, inhuman in their intent, does not somehow give them an advantage. Finding a fancy way to transmit ugly sentiment is of no avail.

The substance of ideas matters more than their verbal expression. Thus the heart matters more than the mouth. So do the Psalms say, “[God is the One] who created all their hearts together, and [therefore] understands their actions.” Psalm 33

No comments:

Post a Comment